Nick’s main priority was to set straight a few minsconceptions, the first being the myth that we are somehow, as humans, hardwired to prioritize happiness. Nonsense, he says (or more accurately, a richer word beginning with B). We are hardwired to improve our relationship with life , that is to say ‘to get better at living life.’ One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to view emotions like anger, shame and loneliness as our enemy, something to be banished, to be drenched with booze. In fact these (positive, not ‘negative’ emotions) are our rocket fuel, and by learning to ride them, we can achieve incredible things.
This resonates with me. First, I like the notion of obliquity so that trying to be happy feels like a dodgy strategy. Secondly, in the course of years of therapy, I’ve realised more and more that being willing to embrace supposed negative emotions can be remarkably liberating. I mean embrace, rather than “act on”, by the way. Nick names shame, and that’s a very potent one. I would add that, for me, sadness is a good one to accept. I don’t feel sad very often, and when I do it feels a blessed relief. I think that’s why I love Elgar’s Cello Concerto.
(Disclosure: I’m part of Policy Unplugged which organised the event, thoughI wasn’t there myself)
UPDATE On a tangentially related note, Andrew Rixon enthuses about a “Postive No”